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Volunteers have been trying to discourage suicides on a bridge in the USA for several years. Especially – on Valentine’s Day

Volunteers are trying to save the Golden Gate from the status of one of the most popular places for suicide.

Head of the movement The Bridgewatch Angels Miya Munayep (in the orange jacket in the foreground) and volunteers Photo by  Marin Independent Journal

Before February 14, Facebook appeared traditional calls to join the ranks of volunteers who are trying to prevent suicide in one of the most popular placesfor this – on the Golden Gate Bridge in the United States.

Volunteers have been patrolling the site for several years. They are preparing for the most difficult duty: according to their observations, on Valentine’s Day, the number of possible suicides increases significantly.

Golden Gate Bridge is considered a “suicide bridge”

People jump from the suspension bridge between San Francisco and the southern part of Marin County about once every two weeks, calculated The New Yorker in 2003. In total, for the 82-year history, about two thousand people jumped from the crossing, among whom only 39 survived – such data resulted from local media in February 2019. Only one in five of these 39 victims did not become disabled. Disappointing statistics allow journalists to call the Golden Gate “suicide bridge.”

The causes of suicide are different – from mental disorders to experiences because of unrequited love. The authorities do not ignore the unofficial status of the bridge: the police patrol it, and telephones and signs with a proposal to call the crisis service hang near the fences.

A sign with the words “There is hope. Call “and the way to contact the crisis service Photo Charlene Hios

But even the current measures are not enough to save all potential suicides, and the actual number of suicides is difficult to trace due to the lack of witnesses.

A suicide prevention movement organized by a police lieutenant

Police Lieutenant Miya Munayep did not encounter suicides among loved ones, but in 2006 she was impressed with the documentary film “ The Bridge ”. It told about a small group of local residents who were walking along the bridge and trying to lure into their company those who at first glance needed help. Soon Munaier joined the volunteers, and over time turned the occupation into a large-scale movement The Bridgewatch Angels (“Guardian Angels of the Bridge”).

Munaier was also influenced by professional experience: over the years of service, she had seen “countless” suicides and witnessed how the families of the victims experienced what had happened. For this reason, the police officer said, she is strongly encouraged to work by the relatives of the survivors, with whom she often keeps in touch.

Volunteers are trained by Munaier and suicide prevention experts. Volunteers understand how to recognize “people at risk”, how to assess the condition of passers-by at the post, what to say to a person who is inclined to suicide, and how to follow the safety rules. Most often, a volunteer needs to go up to the person and say “Hi.”

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Such a simple gesture can be very effective for those who feel lonely, cut off from the world and indifferent to someone. Because people who come to the bridge do not really want to die. They just want to stop the pain. There is a big difference between this, and that is why human contact can save lives.[/perfectpullquote]
Miya Munayep
head of the movement of The Bridgewatch Angels

Volunteers pay special attention to holidays, but not everyone thinks such a move is justified.

“If I help at least one person on the bridge, no matter what efforts I put to it, it will make sense,” said Marta Jensen, a local resident and volunteer at The Bridgewatch Angels. The bridge is patrolled all year round by 100–200 people, and special attention is paid to solemn dates.

According to the observation of volunteers, the New Year, Christmas and other popular holidays become the days of “increased suicide risk.” From Valentine’s Day, they expect the first in the year “surge” in the number of suicides.

Sociologists do not agree with the evaluation of the volunteers. A study of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, conducted in 2007–2009, states that there is no marked increase in suicides on holidays. According to the authors of the report, the peak of suicides is observed in spring and summer, probably due to more frequent interaction with other people and, as follows, heightened stress from various factors.

Munayep acknowledged that the vast majority of volunteers spend their shifts without incident. And yet, by February 14, volunteers are preparing especially. “Valentine’s Day is not only about couples, but also about single people who want to show their love here on the bridge. There are families who have experienced incredible grief, so we are here to warn [new cases], ”the head of The Bridgewatch Angels noted.

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